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UND president goes on leave: Kelley plans to study faculty tenure policies around the country

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news Jamestown, 58401
Jamestown North Dakota 121 3rd St NW 58401

GRAND FORKS — University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley has taken a 30-day leave to study faculty tenure.

Kelley said the time will allow him to network and study different ways the process is implemented across the nation. He said he wants to use that information to create a more streamlined method of evaluating and awarding tenure at UND, not to create more or fewer tenured positions.

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“Tenure has to be somewhat uniformly and fairly administered so that some people aren’t being inadequately rewarded for work that is so different from someone else’s work,” Kelley said. “Someone could be denied tenure because somehow they didn’t meet a poorly expressed or unexpressed standard.”

As of fall 2013, about 48 percent of the professors, associate professors and assistant professors at UND were tenured, and about 17 percent were on tenure track, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

Larry Skogen, interim chancellor of the North Dakota University System, granted Kelley’s request.

UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo will oversee the university in Kelley’s absence. The president will be back Aug. 7.

One policy

In his official request for developmental leave, Kelley cited issues surrounding different standards for what it means to achieve tenure, financial implications and a differing level of understanding of what tenure means for an individual.

University System policy leaves the particulars of granting and evaluating tenure up to each institution, and Kelley said he has been thinking about trying to find a way to create an overarching, standardized policy instead of the current method.

“My concern is that we’re not terribly consistent in the way we administer tenure on this campus,” he said. “Every department, appropriately, has different standards, but I think we may have gotten to the point where we’re somewhat disparate in our institutional standards. I wanted to see what other universities do.”

Kelley said tenure is meant to ensure instructors have the ability to voice sometimes unpopular academic opinions for the betterment of the educational environment without the fear of getting fired.

He himself had tenure for 22 years at the University of New Mexico when he worked there.

While a lot of research on the topic of tenure already exists online, Kelley will use his leave to review that literature and policies at peer and other institutions. He also plans to attend conferences and set up meetings with university presidents.

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